Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'


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Joel Kotkin of Foreign Policy waxes on about how suburbs, not cities, are the answer, because population alone doesn’t make a city World Class, especially when it’s marred with a complete lack of infrastructure and capital.

In short, he critiques the developing world’s contribution to urbanization by creating the world’s largest slums to date.

However, he’s only half right.¬†Yes, Jakarta is no New York, but neither is Zurich.

Kotkin doesn’t realize that it is the heterogeneity that fosters the cultural zeitgeist of the Ur-city. Sure, you can have little economic powerhouses like western Europe, but they’re really just homogeneous suburbs of a different sort: Pushing the poor out of your jurisdiction doesn’t make your city better. It just increases class segregation – and that’s all suburbs are, segregated communities.

Yeah, it ain’t just population, but it ain’t just money either: Else-wise Tokyo would be on top, not New York. What’s holding the likes of Tokyo or Shanghai back aren’t that they’re too dense or that their respective countries are over-urbanizing, but that they’re monoliths demographically.

Foreign Policy

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Foreign Policy magazine is coming down on Obama for failing to create much positive headway in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel. “Zero for Four.”

To which I ask, who has made headway with them in the last 30 years? Stephen Walt says he’ll be blamed for “losing” our two wars. We knew they would be lost in 2003. There is no other possible outcome. I suppose Obama could have said “damn the consequences,” fallen on the grenade, gotten us out of the wars post-haste, watched the region go to shit and had a world of bad press kill the Democratic party’s mandate as the Republicans mocked him for being a second Carter while secretly thankful that we were out of that mess, but… seriously now.

That said, what I got out of the article – the indictment – was that, by so much as having that byline, he has insinuated that Obama could use an executive mandate to fundamentally alter America’s antagonistic stance towards Iran and chummy relationship with Israel. Arguably, Obama does have more official power as the executive than anybody in this or the last century thanks to Bush’s policies and party, aside from, perhaps, the mandates of FDR. Whether that translates to real power, however, is up for debate.

The anemic ministrations of this current administration can only mean two things:

a) The Democratic party was unwilling to use the mandate it got in 2009

b) The Democratic party was unable to use the mandate it got in 2009

Just so I don’t go mad, I’m going to assume the latter. At which point we have our most damning indictment of democracy – its utter inability to turn the ship around in any time-line remotely necessary to stave off disaster.

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